WAILEA (KHNL) - The rough economy has hit Hawaii's tourism industry hard, but there's one neighbor island resort that's keeping occupancy up, along with its employees' spirits.
50 million dollars is what renovating the Grand Wailea on Maui cost. It's the first major renovation done on the resort since opening in 1991.
"We did all 780 rooms over the course of the last year. We've also done our pool area which is one of the most significant assets we have, as well as cosmetic work in our spa," said managing director Matt Bailey.
The initial plan was to do the renovations in two phases with the second one happening in 2009. With a softening economy and low occupancy rate, it made more sense to complete the project before the New Year.
"So we went to our owners and suggested, that, we had empty rooms, why not renovate them and they agreed with us so we actually accelerated the program and completed all of the rooms by Christmas time this past year," said Bailey.
With 1300 workers, the Grand Wailea is the largest employer in Maui. Even with the renovations and the tough economic times, the resort was able to avoid employee layoffs.
"I'm very blessed that I'm working at the Grand Wailea because the other hotels right now are having lay-offs and they don't have a job at all, but for us we're still maintaining a job," said employee Alex Castillo.
"We try and have it at the very bottom of the list as far as things we're going to cut out of our budget," said Bailey.
In the grand scheme of things, beautifying this resort turned out to make a big splash with guests, boost employee morale and helps keep faith in the valley isle's future of tourism. .